Calum’s feet hurt terribly as he dashed through the woods. He had abandoned the boots the old woman had leant him far behind him for their hindrance on his mobility. He jumped to a tree and began to climb with the speed of a squirrel and desperation that only the threat of death, or worse, could invoke. Even despite the terrible danger, he couldn’t help but grin with satisfaction at this new advantage as he jumped from branch to branch, even as the enraged thing behind him cried out in anger.
He still heard the monster’s footsteps from the ground beneath him, but just as he thought he was on the verge of escape, his foot fell through the air, and his body followed. He reached out desperately and caught the branch that he swore had been at just where his foot was aimed. As he clung on for dear life, he struggled back into the limbs of the trees, but not before the man in the travelling cloak had caught up and begun climbing. The thing was inches away from catching Calum. Calum glanced about, and he saw his final hope. He jumped over to a tree right next to a river, and the man followed him.
Calum quickly went to the farthest branch overlooking the stream and waited. The man charged with surprising precision and balance towards Calum, and Calum dropped from the branch, his hand grasping it has he swung to the bank. It was in that moment that he wished he’d have done that a mere second earlier, for it was in that moment the branch snapped, taking Calum and the man in the traveling cloak with it.
Calum wasn’t sure how long they were trapped in the current, how many bones he had broken, or how many times his head had smashed into the rocks. All he knew was that he was injured, dazed, in much pain, and that there was a large waterfall before him. With what little mental clarity and physical strength he had left, he swam to the side, grasped a root on the bank, and ever agonizingly, he managed to heave himself onto land. He looked back just in time to see the struggling thing that had chased him go over the falls before he succumbed to the pain and the trauma to his head, and passed out.
Cadman dashed through the woods frantically, guided by the directions of a worried old lady and by the tracks his boy had left behind. Again they cut off, again Cadman was able to confirm he was in the trees. Those widely spaced tracks worried him, for it meant that his son had been running from something. As he followed the path of fresh mud through the trees, he spied the broken former limb of the tree, and his worries increased tenfold.
He dashed down the river, and as his worries were doubled by the large waterfall. As he took the path down to the bottom, he searched about frantically, and then he had the encounter of his life. He had hoped to find his boy, but instead he found the greatest horror he could ever imagine.
Calum, after resting for a time, was able to struggle on. He found something that delighted him to no end. At the bottom of the waterfall, further down the stream, he could see the place near the blackling den! How long it been since he was abducted that night? To Calum, it didn’t matter if it had been days or centuries. He made his way there, and was able to follow the trail the blacklings had left, and when the pale moon was at its apex in the sky, he saw, in delight, his own lighted cottage.
Under the shroud of shadows, in that deep, dark night, he came. He gazed in through the window, and was filled with joy to see both of his parents within, but then, the smile fell, and the twinkle in his eye died when he saw it. In the laps of his weeping mother and father was his own broken body! He was paralyzed in shock as the wind picked up around him. The birds around him started cawing and the wind whistled high, low, and high again. It was as if the Woods was laughing at him. Desperately, he banged against the window, he begged as tears rolled down his cheeks. He screamed for his mother and father, but they didn’t hear him.